This spring was brutal on anglers and as far conditions go, and we can only label it as a back-lash as it applies to fishing success. There was one front after another, a lot of east winds, off-water color, and water temps that never really reached ideal.
But, rest easy anglers; summer has arrived in Tennessee! And I can't think of a better place to spend it than at Pickwick Lake.
(Photo: Tennessee Valley Authority)
You know, when I talk about my favorite Volunteer State waterways, Pickwick always rates No. 1 with me. And someone recently asked me, "If you had one lake in your home state to fish, which one would it be?" and I said, "Pickwick," with absolutely no hesitation.
You see, the lake and I have a kinship. It's where I caught my biggest smallmouth, an 8-pound, 4-ounce brown fish, and that alone should give it shrine-like status in my memory. But the reservoir is also a teacher to me. It's where I matured as an angler, and learned more valuable bass fishing lessons than on any other lake. It was on Pickwick where I learned how to: structure fish, to operate a bass boat, pattern fish, use electronics to fish shallow and deep water, learn the seasonal habits of bass, and fish deep, clear, moving water.
In fact, I owe this lake a great, big THANK YOU!
The beautiful waterway runs 45 miles on the Tennessee River from Pickwick Dam, near Counce, Tennessee to Wilson Dam, near Florence, Alabama. All of the main lake and its tributaries are prime smallmouth, largemouth, crappie and catfish areas providing excellent catches throughout.
Pleasure boat and tournament traffic can be hectic here on the weekends, so night-fishing is often ideal in the summer months. You might also be surprised how much this flood of boat traffic dwindles once the weekdays roll around, so target Monday-Friday.
The lake goes from a 408-range at winter pool to just over 412 in summer. Of course, heavy rains can send it way over 412, and with this kind of flooding, the lake can become off-colored. The Tennessee River flows north through this reservoir; it is influenced by rains to the south in Alabama, so you need to be mindful of weather patterns that develop to the south and east of Pickwick.
Pickwick is such a treasure because it's actually three lakes in one. Its upper levels to the south have shallow ledges to fish, while much steeper ledges abound on the north end. Deep and shallow feeder creeks, gravel bars, bluff banks and excellent water quality are found throughout...all offering 12 months of some kind of fishing action and opportunity on all species of bass (spotted/Kentucky, smallmouth and largemouth) as well as crappie, catfish and sauger.
The same can be said of the Pickwick Tailrace (there are year-round offerings). There's always something biting and there can be excellent catfishing, smallmouth, sauger, striped bass and white bass angling in the waters that have flowed through the dam to head north toward Kentucky Lake.
At the beginning of summer, bass are in a transitional period, and they are moving from shallow water to greater depths. However, many will remain shallow (in the 4-10-foot depths) even with water temps still in the low 80s, on into the second and third weeks of June. Others move out to the deeper ledges at 12-18 feet. Here, deep-diving crankbaits, 4- to 5-inch plastic grubs on 1/4-ounce jigheads, and Carolina rigs are top producers.
Also at this time, don't overlook topwater baits. Fish are schooling shad, so on calm days be observant for feeding activity on the surface. Good lures to toss at 'em include Pop-Rs and Devil Horses.
Catfishing in June can be good below Pickwick Dam as well as on the main lake. Drift-fishing with cut bait, minnows, night crawlers and rooster livers is typically the best tactic. Things get even more productive when current is being generated via the dam. During this time a lot of enormous catfish are always caught just below the dam in the boils created by the turbines. Cut shad fished on the bottom with heavy tackle works best.
There are numerous well-maintained ramps around the lake. The Pickwick State Park boasts a lodge with rooms, great food, a golf course and boat rental.
Pickwick is also an excellent crappie lake. But as the spawn peaks and wanes, you have to go deeper to catch them. Still, they can be caught this month. Catching 3/4- to 2-pound crappie is not uncommon at this time of year in depths of 18-24 feet. Vertical fishing or "pulling" is the favored technique, using 1/8th-ounce jigs along deeper ledges and near stump fields is most productive. On days with wind, you might want to bump the weight of your crappie jig up to 1/4-ounce. And your electronics are going to be your best ally when locating June crappie at Pickwick as they help you pinpoint crappie-holding areas. It is a tremendous crappie fishery, with Yellow Creek often being labeled a top area, but the main lake has plenty of key features that hold them, too. Of course, crappie fishing will greatly improve when summer begins to ascend into fall and the fish again go shallow.
So, until next month, remember water is our most precious resource, but while you're enjoying it never neglect to wear your PFD and use this great resource with respect. Good luck, and catch one for me, and, of course, right here in Tennessee!